William Babell: Toccatas, Suites and Preludes for Harpsichord

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The German-born English composer William Babell (1688–1723) was regarded by his contemporaries as a virtuoso harpsichordist, a reputation he retained posthumously through his arrangements of opera arias by Handel and other composers; many of these arrangements, notable for their sometimes extravagant division-like passagework and cadenzas, were published in his lifetime. However, he was also a significant composer of original harpsichord music, most of which is unique to a manuscript in Bergamo that was identified as a source of his music only recently. Containing a set of eleven toccatas, two suites of dances, a series of seven preludes and a single allemande, this manuscript was apparently copied under Babell’s supervision towards the end of his short life and was perhaps intended as a collection of his original harpsichord music. The musical style recalls the virtuoso idiom of the arrangements, but it also reveals an impressive range of influences that reflected his cosmopolitan background and a marked ability to create exciting effects on the harpsichord through concerto-like idioms. With the exception of one of the suites (omitted for reasons explained in the introduction), this volume contains a complete edition of the manuscript together with two suites of aria arrangements taken from an autograph manuscript originating from the library of the Dukes of Leeds. Appendices containing alternative versions of some of the movements and vocal originals of three of the four aria arrangements in the main part of the volume are also included.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTynset
PublisherLyrebird Music
Number of pages153
ISBN (Print)9790706670164
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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